Ask the Doctor of Perversity
by Beth Brown, MD

From Issue 1.9 - July/August 1995

Bruise Today, Bikini Tomorrow

Q: Since we are in the middle of the swimsuit season, how can one minimize bruising after s/m play, so as not to wreak havoc at the beach?

A: That's an interesting question! To answer, we need to look first at the physics of bruising. The dermis (the underlying layers of the skin) and the tissues underneath the skin get their blood supply from capillaries, tiny vessels that are extremely delicate. When these tissues are compressed suddenly, the impact tears the tiny blood vessels, causing blood to leak into the surrounding tissue. Given enough blood, a visible bruise forms. If you press down gently on the skin, the tissues can "give" and accommodate themselves to protect the capillaries; if you whack the skin suddenly, they can't.

If you want to minimize bruising, use flagellation implements that contact a large area of skin and that are soft enough to minimize blood vessel damage. Keep in mind that the faster an implement moves, the more damage it can cause. A thin implement like a cane concentrates all its force in a small area. You are probably familiar with the handsome pairs of parallel lines that you get from cane strikes. The cane compresses a half-cylinder of skin at high speed along its length; the bruising occurs at the two edges of this cylinder, where the cane's impact is most forceful.

Whips and floggers produce the most bruising at their tips, where the impact is the greatest. Bruising is worse if the tips "wrap" around the side of the bottom's thigh or hip. Whacking someone with a large, leather-covered paddle until your arm is ready to fall off is unlikely to do much bruising, because a large implement distributes the force over a large area and so minimizes the possibility of damage in a particular spot.

There are no magic pre-scene preventives against bruising that I know of. Good nutrition, especially sufficient protein and vitamin C, protects against unduly fragile blood vessels. An all-purpose multiple vitamin is probably a good idea. If your bottom is planning to wear a particular bathing suit to the beach, pool or beauty pageant, have them put it on, outline it in washable marker, and use the marks as a zone in which to place your most telling blows.

Now you've done your scene, and a pair of throbbing, welted buttocks and thighs are before you. To decrease bruising, apply an ice pack. Don't put ice directly on the area; use ice in a towel, a bag of frozen peas or a prepared ice pack. Ice applied for 10 minutes every few hours for a day or two after the scene (the heavier the scene, the longer) will help prevent bruises from spreading. Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can decrease bruising if taken just after a scene and continued for 2-3 days. These medications inhibit the formation of prostaglandins, a class of bodily chemicals that promote blood vessel leakage. Don't take aspirin or other prostaglandin inhibitors until after the scene is finished. If you have any medical problems, check with your doctor before using them at all.

After the first day or two, heat speeds healing of bruises by bringing blood into the area. Warm compresses or baths can help. Some people swear by oriental bruise plasters from Asian groceries or herbalists; these plasters contain chemicals that produce local heat and increased blood flow, but that can also irritate the skin. Calcium and magnesium are helpful in healing bruises; you can buy a combined calcium-magnesium supplement in any pharmacy. It's also important to drink plenty of liquids, especially after a heavy scene.

Beth Brown, MD (DoctorBeth@aol.com) is a Bay Area family physician. She is a contributor to The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual (Pat Califia, editor; Alyson Press, 1988). Please send questions that you would like her to address in future issues.

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Last updated: 18 August 1995